“The best time to start a company”

Cathy Mosca posted a New York Times article on TomPeters.com entitled “The Self-Employed Depression.”

Now, maybe I’m just too new to the ranks of the “self-employed” to be so jaded, but the Wall Street Journal today posted an article entitled “Processing a Software Idea Into a Suite Job at Google” — a story about how Sam Schillace, an engineering director at Google, got that way.

Serial entrepreneur Sam Schillace had been writing software professionally for 16 years when one of his ideas caught Google’s attention. Within seven months, he had sold his online word-processing program to the search-engine giant, where it joined an existing online spreadsheets program to form Google Docs. Now, he oversees engineering for Google products including Gmail, Picasa and Reader.

That’s a much more hopeful article — very positive about the need for perseverance.

Schillace says, “You start a company because you have an idea that you think will be great for some customer — and great ideas are always worth doing, even in a tough market. It’s also the case that many big companies are started during downturns and benefit from the added focus and discipline that’s necessary. So it might actually be the best time to start a company, if it’s the right idea and it’s done well.

Admittedly, Google represents a world that most of us don’t have the skills to aspire to. But there’s also a whole lot of ground between Google and “depression.” That’s ground that most of us can take, to one degree or another.

Here’s what I recommended the last time I was in this position:

… when I started, I almost had to be frantic about getting paying work. I can’t say it enough: pursue new work furiously. By that, I mean you should do all you can to  make sure you are doing an effective job of selling yourself, and not worry about much of anything else. Even if you’re not comfortable selling yourself, it’s the one thing you should be doing with all of your might. In my case, I did everything that the job search professionals recommend in order to get new work – networking, cold-calling, mass-mailings – and I put a great deal of effort into all three of those methods. I ended up getting work from all of those sources, as well as from other sources.

From Breaking Free, The Quest, pg 96.

“Perpetual Revolution”

During those first few months on my own, I read (the book) The Tom Peters Seminar over and over, making notes in the margins, highlighting different sections of it in all different colors, and filling the pages with business cards and sticky-notes so I could find the good parts as I needed them.

Peters advocated a “perpetual revolution” in business, in which imagination is the main source of value in the new economy, where everyone could benefit by assuming they had just been laid off permanently (and adjusting their career strategies accordingly), and that a person’s resume and rolodex were the true sources of their ability to prosper in business.

(emphasis added).

From Breaking Free, The Quest, page 74

The other “day one”

All things considered, I thought yesterday went much better than a prior “day one” for me. I wrote about that in my free ebook, “Breaking Free, The Quest”:

I had that experience on September 17, 1996. The first day of my new life, I could not contain myself. Literally. I was awakened far earlier than I would have liked by an aggressive case of the runs. I rolled over immediately and felt the sheets. They were dry, at least. My pants, however, were a mess. It was a good thing the weather was getting cool, because my extra clothing had kept things otherwise contained.

Yes, all in all, I’d say things have gone much better this time.


A long time ago, I had an online site, www.solocareer.com, devoted to helping people through the process of becoming self-employed. I was successful enough at generating publicity, that I was quoted in the article that I’ve linked to here.

That and $4.00 will get me a cup of coffee. But, except for the added capabilities that web-based marketing sites offer (blogs, networking sites, etc.), a lot of the things I wrote back then are applicable today.

Over the next few days, at least, I’ll be posting some selections from the free ebook that I wrote back then. I hope you like them.

Free eBook

Here’s a somewhat fictionalized account of my efforts first of all to fit into a somewhat dysfunctional corporate world (at a previous company, back in 1996), and then my somewhat successful attempt to get out. (As Shrek might say, “better out than in, I always say”)

Breaking Free: The Quest

I called it “the quest” because, in many ways, it was my quest to get out of a pretty crazy company. It’s a true story, though as I noted in the beginning, some if not most of the names were changed to protect the innnocent.